Sicilian meatballs are a delightful alternative to traditional meatballs.  Raisins and pignoli nuts are combined with ground chuck, Pecorino Romano cheese, garlic, parsley, and breadcrumbs and cooked in a tomato sauce until tender.  These meatballs are perfect served alongside pasta and sauteed greens, and freeze well so they can definitely be made ahead!

Sicilian meatballs in white plate with shaved Pecorino Romano.

While I love traditional meatballs, every now and then I want something a little bit different.

These Sicilian-style meatballs are perfect for when I want to change up my meatball game.

The addition of Sicilian-inspired ingredients, like raisins (or currants) and pine nuts, give these meatballs the perfect sweetness and texture.

What do Sicilian meatballs taste like?

The first time I served these to my family they all agreed on one thing – that the flavor reminded them of braciole.

While I love braciole and make them frequently for Sunday dinner, they do involve a bit of work.

These Sicilian meatballs combine the great flavors of raisins and pignoli that I also use in braciole, but are a bit simpler to make.

I like to cook these meatballs in a tomato sauce after they’ve been fried.  This allows them to absorb additional flavor from the tomato sauce.

I’ll typically serve these with a side of pasta, and almost always with a green, like broccoli rabe or spinach.

One of my other favorite Sicilian-style sides that would pair well with Sicilian meatballs is orange and fennel salad.  Perfect if you’re looking to add additional Sicilian flavor!

Ingredients shown: Breadcrumbs, ground beef, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, garlic, eggs, and Pecorino.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Begin by soaking 1 1/2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs in water or milk, then squeeze out the excess.  Add those breadcrumbs along with 2 pounds of ground chuck, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, 1/4 cup pine nuts,  1/2 cup soaked and drained raisins, and 2 cloves of grated garlic.  Mix together well, but try not to overmix.  Note: If using store-bought breadcrumbs add them into the bowl first then pour a 1/4 cup of milk or enough to wet and let soak for 5 minutes before mixing in other ingredients.

Sicilian meatballs recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. Dip hands into a bowl of water, then grab a golf ball size worth of mix and roll a meatball.  Repeat the process of dipping hands in the water and rolling for a mess-free meatball rolling experience.  Note: Placing the rolled meatballs onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet works well to prevent any sticking.
  2. In a large heavy pan (cast iron works great) heat 1″ high of olive oil or vegetable oil to 350-370f.  Once the oil reaches frying temperature begin frying the meatballs.  Turn the meatballs every couple of minutes to ensure that all sides get equally browned.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Place the fried meatballs on a paper towel lined dish or onto a wire rack to drain.  Work in batches and do not crowd the pan when frying the meatballs.
  2. Once all the meatballs have been fried heat a large pot or high walled pan with 6 cups or more of marinara sauce and add the meatballs in.  Bring to a simmer.

Recipe process shot collage group number three.

  1. Once the Sicilian-style meatballs are tender and hot throughout (about 20-30 minutes) turn off the heat and serve.  Serve with Italian bread, grated Pecorino, or pasta for a full meal.

Sicilian style meatball with sauce cut in half in white plate.

Tips for Sicilian style meatballs

  • My number one tip for making great meatballs of any kind, is to make sure you have a bowl of water to dip your hands when rolling the balls.  The water helps to prevent sticking and ensures a better rolling experience for you.
  • Another tip is to use your best judgment with respect to the meatball mix.  Depending on the type of breadcrumbs you use, you may need more or less breadcrumbs than stated in the recipe.  If the mix is too wet, add a bit more breadcrumbs to thicken the mix.  The meatballs should hold their shape after being rolled and placed onto the parchment paper.

Variations on Sicilian meatballs

If you’d like to up the Sicilian flavor on these meatballs, you may want to consider adding a few additional ingredients.

I love using mint when I’m making Sicilian inspired food, like roasted eggplant.  Fresh mint would be an excellent addition!

I also love using ricotta salata or caciocavallo cheese when I can get my hands on it.

Ricotta salata is a hard cheese that is known for being used in Pasta alla Norma, one of the most widely known Sicilian pasta dishes.  Consider grating ricotta salata or caciocavallo in place of the Pecorino Romano.

Large pan with meatballs in sauce.

More meatball recipes

We’ve got your meatball recipe needs covered!  Here are our favorites!

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Sicilian Meatballs

5 from 13 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 30 meatballs
Raisins and pignoli nuts are mixed with ground chuck, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, and Pecorino Romano for a flavorful twist on the traditional meatball.

Ingredients 

Meatball mix ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs soaked in milk or water and squeezed out
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins soaked in water then squeezed out
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic grated

Remaining ingredients

  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs see notes below
  • 6 cups tomato sauce see notes below
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil

Instructions 

  • Add the meat to a very large bowl and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Next add all of the remaining meatball mix ingredients.
  • Gently mix and distribute together the ingredients but try not to overmix.
  • Set up a bowl of water for rolling the meatballs. Dip hands in water and grab enough of the meatball mix to make a golf ball sized meatball. Roll with palms to form the meatballs then place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat the process of dipping hands in water and rolling until all of the meatballs have been formed.
  • Heat a large cast iron or stainless steel pan with olive oil to 350-370f. Fry meatballs until brown on all sides (about 10 minutes total). Work in batches and don't overload the pan. Place finished meatballs on a paper towel lined plate or onto a wire rack.
  • Heat marinara sauce in a large pot to a gentle simmer. Cook the meatballs in the sauce for 20-30 minutes or until hot in the middle and tender. Serve with more sauce, Italian bread, and grated Pecorino Romano. Enjoy!

Notes

  • If the meatball mix is too wet add a bit of the extra reserved dry breadcrumbs to thicken the mix.  The meatballs should hold their shape after being rolled and placed on the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • If using store-bought breadcrumbs add a 1/4 cup of milk into the mix to help rehydrate the breadcrumbs.
  • Use this Sunday sauce or marinara sauce recipe.  Or make your own!
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.  Reheat in sauce over moderate heat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 118kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.7g | Protein: 12.1g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1.4g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 465mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 1.1g | Sugar: 3.9g | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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29 Comments

  1. This is the same basic recipe my family always used minus the exact measurements as we are all “by eye” cooks.

    Except, as far back as I’ve been able to trace my Italian ancestral lines without taking a trip or two to Italy & thanks to the 1754 catasto, is the early 1700’s. And back to the early 1700’s, my Italian ancestors were all from the small comune of Itri in the Province of Latina in the Lazio Region.

    I always thought this was an Itrani style of meatball but now I’m intrigued to try & discover how a Sicilian style meatball managed to migrate to an Italian family that had for generations always lived in the same small comune of Itri .

    Itri is located on the Appian Way. I wonder if this style of meatball may have come to Itri generations ago with travelers passing along the Appian Way.

  2. 5 stars
    Love your recipes and I look forward to video’s too. I have a quick question, my husband not the biggest fan of raisens but I made the bracciole recipe and he actually said he liked it a lot. Can I substitute golden raisins for the regular ones on the meatballs or the bracciole for that matter. I am thinking they may be a tad sweeter and softer texture? Appreciate your opinion. Thank you again for all the fabulous recipes.

    1. Hi Licia, you can absolutely use golden raisins for this one as well as braciole, caponata, etc. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Exactly like my Aunty Lena and Aunty Tommy showed me! But now, I have some exact proportions. Thank you! Delicious!

  4. My Sicilian father added cinnamon to his meatball mixture. It took us years to discover his “secret” ingredient.

  5. The flavor of these is *chef’s kiss* amazinggg.
    Mine didn’t hold together though but I have this problem a lot with my meatballs so it’s probably my lack of rolling skills.
    Thank you for the recipe!!